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The Autobiography of Malcolm X

As told to Alex Haley

By Alex Haley, Malcolm X
19-minute read
Audio available
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As told to Alex Haley by Alex Haley, Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) is a profound and personal account of one man’s journey from dropping out of school and entering a life of crime and drug addiction to finding redemption through human rights activism. These blinks tell the story of a curious and evolving mind: a man who dedicated his life to helping African-Americans gain identity and freedom from oppression by any means necessary.

  • Human rights activists
  • Historians
  • People interested in the civil rights movement

Malcolm X was one of the most important activists in the history of African-American rights. Malcolm X Day is celebrated on 19 May each year in many cities including Berkeley, California, where offices and schools are officially closed. He has been portrayed in numerous movies by actors such as Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Alex Haley wrote Roots: The Saga of an American Family. He was also senior editor of Reader’s Digest, a respected journalist and groundbreaking interviewer. He ghostwrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X from extensive interviews with his subject.

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The Autobiography of Malcolm X

As told to Alex Haley

By Alex Haley, Malcolm X
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 12 key ideas
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As told to Alex Haley by Alex Haley, Malcolm X
Synopsis

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) is a profound and personal account of one man’s journey from dropping out of school and entering a life of crime and drug addiction to finding redemption through human rights activism. These blinks tell the story of a curious and evolving mind: a man who dedicated his life to helping African-Americans gain identity and freedom from oppression by any means necessary.

Key idea 1 of 12

Malcolm lost his father and his mother at a young age.

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925.

His father, Reverend Earl Little, was a Baptist preacher who helped spread the teaching of Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

Malcolm was the seventh of eight children and his mother, Louise, struggled to look after them all. Louise was born in the West Indies, the product of her mother’s rape by a white slave master, which meant that Louise had very fair skin that sometimes resulted in her being mistaken for a white woman.

This also meant that Malcolm was born with reddish hair and a light complexion – the lightest of any of his siblings. Malcolm believed it was this difference in his appearance that led his mother to be harsher on him than her other children. In her eyes, he was a living reminder of the white rapist in the family’s past.

Meanwhile, perhaps because of this same difference, his father favored Malcolm, frequently taking him to UNIA meetings.

But his father’s efforts to create a sense of pride and identity in the black community led to a tragic end.

One of Malcolm’s first memories dated from when they were living in Lansing, Michigan. He woke up in the middle of the night in a panic. A white supremacist group, The Black Legion, had set fire to the Littles’ house, but luckily the family escaped unharmed.

Predictably, it got worse: When Malcolm was six years old, his father was murdered. Despite having been fatally beaten, the police called his death an accident.

After that, Louise struggled to keep the family together as a single mother. She was prideful and didn’t like resorting to government aid, but eventually had to.

This meant dealing with the government’s child welfare officers, who were especially cruel to Louise, trying to turn the children against her. They finally succeeded, putting Louise in a state mental hospital when Malcolm was 12 and sending the kids to live with different families.

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